The Humility of Parenting

Mary Tyler Son is sick.  High fever, violent vomit out the nose sick.  Poor kid.

I felt under the weather Saturday afternoon and evening, but woke up Sunday fresh as pie.  Mary Tyler Son, though, was cranky, contrary, and kind of a pill all morning.  It’s easy to get pulled into that, asking him, “What is wrong with you?,” rather than asking myself, “Wow.  He’s really not acting himself.  What might be wrong with him?”

That latter approach was apparently in the parenting manual I never read.

I got a text late afternoon that poor Mary Tyler Son had a fever of 102.  Of course he did.  Mary Tyler Dad and I both did a collective smack of our noggins at that point.  Of course he had a fever of 102.  Let the Tylenol commence.

I know I shouldn’t test the fates by typing what I’m about to type, let alone thinking what I’m about to type.  Aside from seeing my little one unhappy and not himself, I appreciate the strength of need Mary Tyler Son has for me when he is unwell.  There I said it.  Ugh.  Parenting confession No. 13,598 — I like to be needed.  I like to be able to make things better.

I know more than most that children get sick.  Some children get really sick. Some children get so sick that they die.  This is not like that.  I never took pleasure in holding my daughter for hours on end on the kitchen floor as she wailed in discomfort.   There was no pleasure found in knowing that after five days in the hospital with chemo we would come home to wait for the certain neutropenia to set in, knowing that another hospital day was exactly, precisely eleven days away.

Yeah, this is not like that.

Despite what I wrote a few days ago, I trust that I will see this child, Mary Tyler Son, grow into the person Donna will never get the chance to be.  I trust that he will get taller than me and maybe one day, if I am really, truly lucky, love me as an adult.  I hope for this every day.

But on days like yesterday and today, when the little guy is feverish, not eating much, and under the weather, yeah, I am gonna enjoy the hell out of cuddling with him.  Imma revel in stroking the curls off his forehead, feeling him in my arms for more than a quick hug between games, and feeding him bits of too sweet pancakes, just to ensure something is in his belly.  On days like this, I happily fill the washing machine with vomit covered blankets and towels and pajamas.

When Mary Tyler Son is sick, the world stops.  Our world stops.  We hunker down, settle in, slow down.  We watch kid friendly television, make Jell-o in dinosaur bone molds, and place a moratorium on the one sweet drink a day rule.  I hover, I fret, I fuss, knowing in my bones that this sickness will pass.

And at night, when Mary Tyler Dad has been sent to the guest room (our strategy is that at least one parent should be fresh for the next morning), Mary Tyler Son sets up camp in our bed.  He needs the company, so he’s “not too lonesome,” and I make a nest next to the bed with everything we will need:  towels, metal bowl to catch vomit, thermometer, water, crackers, iPad. It is our routine.  And sometimes, a boy just needs his Mama.

Like at 4:17 AM, when moaning, he climbs into my arms and tells me, “everything hurts.”  I know and he knows that my arms make everything hurt just a tiny bit less.  And I hold him close and whisper “there, there” as I pat his back and smooth his curls.  And in those moments I can do for Mary Tyler Son what I could never do for Donna — I can make it better.

2 Replies to “The Humility of Parenting”

  1. Enjoy the hard-earned neediness! My son adores his Dad – except when he wakes up from his afternoon nap, and then he needs his Mama to hold him and stroke him and cuddle him before he feels ready to face the world, including his Dad. There is a profound sense of satisfaction that I play an important role in launching this little citizen into the world – it is me, only me, whom he trusts when his resources are down 🙂

    Also, you did make Donna’s life journey better – ever so much better. Kraft och omtanke to you


  2. I understand that feeling, Sheila. I love being needed by Lucas. He doesn’t ask much for hugs or cuddles anymore, but when he’s sick I get lots of love, and I give lots of love right back.
    I’m sorry to hear that Jay is sick. I hope he’s feeling better soon! XoXoX


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